Currently viewing the category: "Microlepidoptera"

Subject: Beetles?
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
June 24, 2017 3:01 am
Hello. I think these might be some type of flea or water beetles. They jumped out of our bathtub drain in Phoenix, Arizona. These 2 were the largest. Some were so small they looked like flecks of pepper. They jump & bite hard! They also seem to be able to swim.
Signature: Fed Up in AZ


Dear Fed Up in AZ,
We are going to contact Eric Eaton to get his opinion on this, but we believe these are Thrips in the order Thysanoptera, but we don’t know what they are doing in your bathtub drain.  These are not Beetles.  You can see images of Thrips on BugGuide, including this image and this image.


Eric Eaton Responds
Ok, two different organisms at play here.  The images are of a small moth, maybe Tineidae for family.  The other creatures she describes are springtails, order Collembola.  They do not bite, though, so maybe yet another insect is to blame, like fleas or something.
author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America

Ed. Note:  There are no Springtails visible in this image.  While we thought the jumping and the drain indicated possible Springtails, the pictured Moth is most definitely NOT a Springtail.  Since Springtails do not bite, we were additionally puzzled.


Interesting!  Thanks. We had mold growing beneath the bathtub and in the walls surrounding the separate shower and in the carpeted areas also. The bugs also came up through cracks in the cement and cracks in the grout of the floor tiles all throughout the house ( likely from a slab leak beneath the home. )
The county extension office identified them as a mix of Beetles and Springtails, yet they didn’t specify any types of beetles or springtails. They did say none of them would be biting people and they were drawn indoors because of the mold.
We were renting and we moved, but whatever they are they must’ve gotten into our belongings because we still live with them. Not as bad,mind you! But they’re still very much present indoors and still biting and making our lives miserable. On the rare occasion we do manage to smash one of the bigger ones mid bite, it’s always plainly full of bright red blood. I just don’t understand it and I’m so sick of it. The tiny ones seem to bore into furniture and even tile and cement! How???
Thank you again

Subject: Mystery bugs on black-eyed susan
Location: North Gower, Ontario
July 23, 2015 7:28 am
I’m hoping to find out what these little guys are. I’d be happy just to know a general classificiation if they can’t be identified down to species! I found them on the Cedar Grove Nature Trail in Marlborough Forest.
Signature: Suzanne



Dear Suzanne,
These sure look like moths to us, and at this time, the best we can tell you is that they appear to be diurnal.  We will file them as Microlepidoptera on our site.

Subject: microlep?
Location: Midland, MI
July 17, 2014 6:47 am
Hi bug man,
I’m stumped! I have a microlep that I am struggling to ID. A homeowner recently dropped this moth off as one captured from her yard. She indicated this spring much of their ground cover and other assorted plants were being eaten by caterpillars, and suspects this moth as the adult.
This is not a critter I am familiar with. I also have to admit that these tiny moths are my least favorite thing to ID! Is this in the family prodoxidae?
I am also curious as to what to tell this lady… “this is a small moth. it’s a species I am not familiar with as there are thousands of tiny moths in Michigan that are no fun to key out. This species isn’t one that we see as a common insect pest, and chances are it is probably not polyphagous– eating so many different kinds of plants in your yard. It’s hard to help you ID caterpillars from months ago without seeing them nor knowing what KIND of plants they were eating.”
For fun and unrelated, I am sharing a photo of hatching cecropia eggs that I took yesterday 🙂
Signature: Elly

Unknown Microlepidoptera

Unknown Microlepidoptera

Dear Elly,
We agree with you fully that identifying Microlepidoptera is not easy, and we might spend hours on this and still be unsuccessful.  Your letter did not indicate why you are the point person for this identification, so we can only surmise that your work for a nursery, an extermination company or perhaps a museum.  We are posting your images and we hope that one day there might be an answer.  We suspect this moth is not related to the caterpillars that are feeding on the woman’s plants.  The hatching Cecropia Caterpillar will get its own posting.

Unknown Microlepidoptera

Unknown Microlepidoptera

Subject: Some kind of butterfly?
Location: Near Saskatoon, SK, Canada
July 20, 2013 9:00 am
I stopped to take a photo of some small purple flowers, and this tiny insect just happened to be hanging out on one. It kind of looks like a butterfly, but the wing are rather unusual to me. Can you identify this bug for me?
This photo was taken this summer (mid July), in an old pasture that has gone partially back to native grasses.
Signature: Dawn

Heliodinid, we Believe

Heliodinid, we believe

Dear Dawn,
Microlepidopterans, tiny moths, can be very difficult to identify, but since this is such a distinctive looking diurnal moth, we decided to give it a try.  First we discovered Linnaeus’s Spangle-Wing on BugGuide, but your individual has more wing markings than that species.  Then we found a very close match with
Embola ionis on the Moth Photographers Group, and we thought we had your moth, but upon searching the family Heliodinidae on BugGuide, we realized there were other general with other similar looking species.  BugGuide indicates the family can be identified because:  “Members of the family Heliodinidae are metallic-colored, mostly diurnal moths.”  Our top favorites for possible species include Neoheliodines cliffordi, which is pictured on BugGuide as well as on the Moth Photographers Group and Embola ionis, which is also pictured on BugGuide.  Both of those species have a more northern range, and though neither is reported from Saskatchewan on BugGuide, both are reported from Minnesota.   

Subject: what fly is it
Location: Taman Insiyur Haji Juanda, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
February 8, 2013 1:31 pm
Hello Daniel,
I took this one on 2010, beautiful colored fly… but I wonder what is it.
Signature: Mohamad Idham Iskandar

Could it be a False Plume Moth???

Wow Mohamad,
We don’t even know where to begin with this one, except to eliminate what it is not.  We are confident it is not a fly, beetle or orthopteran.  Our best guess is that it is some type of moth and some of its features are similar to hymenopterans.  We wish you had additional photos.  Perhaps one of our readers will provide some information.  The antennae are unusual and there appear to be structures associated with the mouthparts that are pointing upwards as well.

Trevor suggests False Plume Moth
Looking at those heavily spiked legs makes me think it may be in false plume moths. These moths are usually small (with wingspans around 1-2 cm/less than 1 inch) and brownish in color. They have large compound eyes, thread-like antennae, and prominent labial palps. The body is slender, and the legs bear large spines.

Thanks Trevor,
We had to do important things unrelated to What’s That Bug? today, and we are satisfied that we did more than expected.

Thanks alot Daniel and Trevor,
Ahhh… (Bang on the head) I forgot about lepidoptera (scale wing). Just like what Trevor said, yes…it is small, no more than 1,5 cm long.
Sadly after looking in my photo collection from that place 2010, I only have 1 decent looking photo of them.
I only met this guy once, and until now I haven’t met them again.
If I ever met them again, I’ll take more decent photos and inform you …

Karl provides some suggestions
Hi Daniel and Mohamad:
You are quite right Daniel. This is one of those frustratingly difficult Microlepidoptera, a group of tiny moths made up of numerous families and innumerable species. I think it is likely some sort of Concealer Moth in the family Oecophoridae. They are sometimes referred to as wasp mimics, which is in line with your suggested resemblance to a hymenopteran. However, it could also be Cosmet Moth in the family Cosmopterigidae (and there may be other candidate families as well). The prominent upturned facial appendages are its labial palps, a feature that is common to all sixteen or so families of the superfamily Gelechioidea , the Curved Horn Moths, to which the Oecophoridae and Cosmopterigidae both belong. Identifying it any further would require some serious expertise. Regards.  Karl

Thanks so much Karl.  We will classify it as Microlepidoptera.

Update June 25, 2020 from Dr. John B. Heppner:
This moth is a new species of the family Stathmopodidae. Very interesting species.

What the heck?
Location: South Dakota kitchen floor
May 18, 2011 8:34 am
I found this on the floor. At first I thought it was something off a sunflower but found this worm looking thing inside.
Signature: Please help

Unknown Thing

We are baffled as to how to even categorize this thing.  There are not enough visible characteristics except to say that it resembles a grub or maggot, but being in that casing is quite curious.  Furthermore, why are there two of them?  The casing looks fibrous and hemplike, or possibly like fur.  Do you perhaps have a house pet with similar looking hair?  We are going to feature your photo in the hopes that our readership is able to provide some information.

Karl solves the Mystery
Mysterious Encased Grublike Thing – May 18, 2011
Hi Daniel and Please help:
Your mysterious objects look to me like the mature, presumably overwintered, seedheads of burdock (Arctium sp.). If so, the little grubs are likely the larvae of the Burdock Seedhead Moth (Metzneria lappella), a variety of microlepidoptera in the family Gelechiidae. The larvae feed on the developing seedheads, then overwinter as larvae and pupate within the seedhead in the spring. Burdock is very common here in southern Manitoba and in the fall the seedheads are typically very heavily infested with these little guys. Perhaps they hitched a ride into your home on someone’s clothing, or maybe a dog. Burdocks were originally Eurasian species but they have been naturalized in North America for a very long time. I suspect the same goes for the Burdock Seedhead Moth. Regards.  Karl

Wow Karl,  that was an impressive identification.